On Sunday afternoon the St. Louis Cardinals put the finishing touches on their 2013 campaign that saw them finish with a 97-65 record, good for best in the National League. For a team that spent most of the first half of the season in that position before floundering through the midsummer, it was a happy ending.
The team, however, will enter postseason play for the tenth time in the last fourteen seasons with about as many questions as answers. Here are three important questions that the team will need to find answers to if the franchise’s 12th World Series title is in the cards.
Who will be the postseason closer?
After the preseason injury to closer Jason Motte who led the league with 42 saves in 2012, the team began looking for a new one this spring. Last year’s setup man Mitchell Boggs was unable to settle into the role which opened up the competition. Then last year’s trade deadline acquisition and seventh inning man, Edward Mujica stepped into the role and made it his own, posting a 1.72 ERA, a 0.78 WHIP, and 35 saves in 37 chances from when he took over the position until the end of August. He even got an All Star nod of his own for his work.
But some late season struggles that included being shut down for a week in September for elbow fatigue has opened the door to questions about his health and who will close for the team. Mujica struggled to the finish in 2013 with an 11.05 ERA in his 7 1/3 innings of work and the league hitting over .500 against him. Continue reading
I’ve heard El Maquino, in fact we had a discussion about it tonight, and others claim that Allen Craig‘s RBI pace from 2012 is unsustainable because he had runners on base ahead of him 47% of the time.
So I wanted to do some digging. The statistic being used seemed like one of those that seems high on the surface, but because it’s not a readily used statistic, there is no way to know just what is average, what is bad, and what truly is unsustainable.
I found that last year’s MLB average was that base runners were on base in 42% of major league at bats last season. It stands to reason that being in the middle of the lineup, behind quality hitters would easily put you above average. As a result, the 47% by Craig seems perfectly sustainable. But how does he relate to others? Continue reading
It’s been a theme for the Cardinals all season. Missed opportunities. The most glaring from this afternoon being a bases loaded situation in the bottom of the seventh with no outs. Ground balls from Allen Craig and Yadier Molina ended the inning without the Cardinals scoring to extend their 2-1 lead. At that point, the momentum swung firmly in the direction of the Nationals.
In the top of the eighth, Mitchell Boggs came in and it all began to unravel for the Cardinals. A tough bounce resulted in a fielding error by Pete Kozma allowed Michael Morse to reach base. Ian Desmond singled to move Morse to third. Danny Espinosa sacrificed Desmond to second. With runners at second and third, Boggs managed to strike out Kurt Suzuki for the second out of the inning. It appeared the Cardinals might escape the inning.
The left handed hitter Chad Tracy was announced as the pinch hitter. Mike Matheny went to the mound and brought in Marc Rzepczynski, the only lefty reliever on the St. Louis roster. His last appearance, he allowed a double to Jason Heyward before getting out of the inning against a right hander. Of course, when Rzepczynski came into the game, Nationals manager Davey Johnson went back for right handed hitter Tyler Moore.
As my Dad told me last night, “I was expecting a Wild Card Game, not a wild Cards’ game.” Major League Baseball’s first Wild Card Game, certainly lived up to the wild factor. The 94 win Atlanta Braves were facing off against the 88 game St. Louis Cardinals at Turner Field on Friday evening with a National League Divisional Series berth on the line.
Facing off for the game was the Braves’ Kris Medlen (10-1, 1.57) and the Cardinals’ Kyle Lohse (16-3, 2.86).
Medlen was the starter of note, because the Braves had won 23 consecutive games that Medlen had started, dating back to May 29, 2010. The streak was interrupted by Tommy John surgery and he started this season in the bullpen for the Braves.
Lohse was the quieter of the pair, despite being one of the top pitchers in the National League all season. He led the Cardinals’ rotation in ERA this year. A rotation that was the fourth best in baseball. He had also never won a playoff start going into this game, having a career postseason ERA of 5.12 in 31 2/3 innings. Last year during the Cardinals’ playoff run, he allowed 11 runs in 12 2/3 innings.
The St. Louis Cardinals just completed their series victory against the Cincinnati Reds with a 8-2 drubbing behind Adam Wainwright. Wainwright, it’s fun to realize, has a 1.73 ERA and is 6-1 in 8 starts since the All Star Break. He has once again emerged as the Cardinals’ ace and regaining his market value along with it. He’s also on pace to surpass 200 innings something he’s done in every full season he’s spent as a starting pitcher.
If you’ll remember back to the last Monday Musial I wrote on July 30th, I talked about how the 22 game stretch from July 31st to August 23rd was going to be a critical run for the Cardinals’ up into this 10 game stretch against the Reds, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Washington Nationals. The Cardinals went 14-8 over this stretch, which is great until you realize how easily they could have been 18-4 and how that would have changed everything.
I still firmly believe that 90 wins is the golden ticket to the playoffs. Currently, the Atlanta Braves are the only team in the Wild Card hunt on pace for 90 wins. Their .567 winning percentage translates to 92 wins. For the Cardinals, their .551 translates to just shy of 90 wins (.555 is 90 wins). Continue reading
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today that they have signed Jake Westbrook to a new deal. The deal is essentially a 1 year deal that gives Westbrook $250,000 more than he would have made on his 2013 option and gives both parties a mutual option worth $9.5 million for 2014.
Westbrook, 34, said earlier this month that he intended to exercise his half of his $8.5 million option for 2013 but admitted he wasn’t sure what the team was going to do. He got his answer.
He is certainly pitching worth it right now too. With a 12-9 record and a 3.50 ERA in 24 starts, he is enjoying the second best season of his career by ERA+. His best was 2004 where he got his only career All Star nod and finished at 14-9 with a 3.38 ERA. Continue reading